Dear Dr. G.,
The holidays are quickly approaching and frankly I am dreading them. My two kids ages 13 and 15 both girls get so competitive about gifts. They not only count the number of gifts that they each get from me and my husband but they also compare the monetary value of the gifts. To me this does not seem like a healthy thing. I was an only child and never had a sibling to compare myself to so I was always grateful for what I got.
Please tell me how I can deal with this without having to cancel Christmas.
A Mother of Ingrates
Dear Mother of Ingrates,
I hear you. Since the beginning of time sibling rivalry has been around. The oldest known version of sibling rivalry is when Cain killed Abel because God rejected Cain's offering of produce but accepted the animal sacrifices offered by Cain's brother Abel.
It is natural that kids growing up under the same roof define themselves in part by comparing their experiences to those of their brothers and sisters.
With the understanding that some sibling rivalry is normal and to be expected there are some things that you can do to decrease competitiveness about gifts:
1.Create holiday family traditions that don't necessarily involve gifts. You may want to spend time baking with one child while spending time decorating the house with the other child.
2. Try not to overdo it with the gifts. Even though kids may seem to love them-too many may cause them to feel stressed and overwhelmed and in turn to amplify the level of competitiveness.
3. Allow for one on one time with each child.
4. Try to keep the stress level down by not overscheduling the family during the holidays. Too much scheduling and structure may lead to stress which in turn increases jealousy, competitiveness, and their buddy fairness. Let everyone have a bit of down time to relax.
5.Try to define love to your kids as measured by more than simply the number and monetary value of gifts received.
Good luck and may the holidays be less stressful this year!